After two weeks driving around the French and Italian Alps, we stopped in Annecy for a spot of sightseeing and relaxation. Annecy was perfect for both, being on the serene shores of Lake Annecy and full of historic architecture. One such historic icon is the Palais de l’Isle, a castle in the middle of the Thiou Canal. It was built in the 12th Century as the residence for the Lord of Annecy, but has since been used as a court house, a mint, and lastly a prison, most recently in WWII. Now it is a museum hosting historical displays. Huge wooden doors with ironwork and small crooked steps leading up to the turrets set you back in time, and history oozes out of the old stone walls.
Khongoryn Els, the Singing Sand Dunes, are some of the largest dunes in Mongolia. No trip to the Gobi is complete without a visit to them, and a picture from the top of course! The dunes really do make a sound like a low chanting or hum, an eery sound in the middle of nowhere at night!
The best way to see Komodo National Park is by boat, no doubt about it! There are about 30 tropical islands located in between the east and west mainlands of Nusa Tenggara, and many are unpopulated. These gems are accessed by boat and snorkelling among them is paradise. Komodo NP is part of the Coral Triangle, a marine biodiversity hotspot containing the highest diversity of marine species on Earth, and is even more species-rich than the Amazon rainforest.
This was a typical view for much of our journey from Yakutsk to Magadan; crystal clear rivers, beautiful autumnal forest and piercing blue skies. Camping here was a dream come true. The only thing missing from the picture? We never glimpsed a single wild bear, so synonymous with Siberian wilderness.
Within hours of crossing into Kyrgyzstan, we came across this brilliant sight. A herd of Kyrgyz horses, galloping across the road, with the stunning Alay mountains in the background. What better introduction to a beautiful country?
I rejoined Griff in Munich after a week in the UK, but camp sites are hard to find in the Bavarian capital, especially in winter. He had discovered the town of Landshut just outside Munich, and it had everything we needed – an open campsite, good pubs and good beer! We had fantastic food in front of a cosy fire before walking home through the snow. The peaceful walk back to our tent was just what I needed after a busy day’s travel.
On our way to Bishkek from Osh, we pulled over on a disused road to set up camp for the night. Just as we were about to start dinner, a man appeared seemingly from nowhere. He invited us to join him and his wife for dinner, so we followed him back to his small farm, tucked away in a dip on the hill. His wife appeared from a small hut, no more than a wooden frame covered in cloth and plastic. She was unfazed by her unexpected dinner guests; she just cleared a space for us in the hut and laid out tender cooked beef, homemade yoghurt, bread and honey. After food and lots of tea, it was time to milk the cows. It was fascinating to watch, having never witnessed it before. The milk was warm, and didn’t taste like the pasteurised stuff we get in the shop, but I was glad to try some. It would be left in the roof overnight to settle, and the cream would be skimmed off in the morning and made into yoghurt, which was just amazing with honey and warm bread! We camped in their yard overnight, soothed by the sounds of thunder and murmuring cattle. Simple pleasures with a lovely family.
How we travelled 1000km by freight barge up the Lena River, visited one of the worlds largest and most isolated diamond mines, had the fright of our lives and traversed the Vilyuysk Trackt to reach the coldest city on earth.
While retreating back to Severobaikalsk from the Vitim Bridge, we noticed a knocking noise and an unsettling aroma of exhaust fumes in the cab. Moments later the exhaust noise ramped up and we pulled over immediately. Upon closer inspection Griff discovered the exhaust had sheared off at the manifold and needed urgent attention. Typically we had a stainless steel system installed so not only did we need to find a welder, we needed someone who could weld stainless and more importantly had the gear to do it. (more…)
Kawah Ijen on the east coast of Java is one of a complex of volcanoes, overlooking a turquoise lake full of hydrochloric acid and the location of the phenomenon “Blue Flame”. This is actually the (more…)
While in Indonesia, we chartered a boat with a small group of friends so we could take a trip to the Komodo National Park, home of the infamous dragon! We wandered around Rinca with a guide, looking carefully in the forest to find any of the world’s largest (more…)
Yakutsk in Russia has the coldest winter climate of any city in the world, and is built on ground that is permanently frozen all year round. It is the biggest city to be built on permafrost which obviously (more…)
On our journey last year we spent a good deal of time in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek. While staying at the extremely friendly and comfortable Nomads Home, we met a group of French street artists (more…)
Not long after leaving the UK we stopped in a German truck stop to make a hot coffee and to dry out our soaking rooftent (our last night on home turf was an extremely wet one). Not long after setting up, an extremely tall, strangely dressed gentleman named Andreas wandered over to say hello. (more…)
We left Kazakhstan and crossed into the Russian Altai region on our way to Mongolia. Rather than head north to Barnaul and following the main road, we decided to cut east across the mountains by Sentelek and join the road south of Gorno-Altaysk. (more…)
In the summer of 2010 we took a week off to walk along part of the 630-mile South West Coast Path, which runs along the entire coastline from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. We took the train to St Ives in Cornwall and walked the 40 miles to Penzance and the mystical St Michael’s Mount. (more…)
On our way from Yakutsk to Magadan, we crossed several degrees of latitude. This meant we left summer and crossed into autumn/winter rapidly within a week. One day we would be among Birch trees in their full green and silver dress, the next we would be in awe of the many shades of red and gold shining out from amongst the endless pines. We would move north east, leaving (more…)
Not long after arriving in Australia, we decided to spend a few days driving the iconic Great Ocean Road. We stayed in the Otways National Park, but drove on past to visit the world famous Twelve Apostles. Strangely there were only nine (not twelve) limestone stacks when they were named in 1922, and this has now dropped to eight after one collapsed due to erosion in 2005.
We wandered around the cliffs on the boardwalks that provided easy access, viewing platforms and safety, keeping us tourists away from the unstable edges! The fantastic weather gave us amazing views for miles across the Southern Ocean, and we marvelled at the beautifully clear water crashing onto the beaches below. It was awesome to see something so iconically Australian, and it really brought home the enormity of our journey.
We decided to stop in Indonesia for a much-needed rest while waiting for the rig to make it’s way to Australia. While in Bali, we were persuaded to visit the Gili Islands, a triplet of idyllic tropical islands and the epitome of paradise. One evening after a relaxing sunset stroll along the beach of Gili Trawangan, we walked past a restaurant with a resident fire poi performer. In between beers he wowed the diners with his moves and fascinated passers-by such as ourselves, all the while maintaining a quiet composure. It was not showy or over the top, just a silent yet dramatic backdrop to gourmet seafood and coconut drinks. We soaked up the serenity, before moving on to a much cheaper place for dinner!
On our way from Lensk to Yakutsk, we stopped in Mirny after an unfortunate event with our car window. What was meant to be an overnight stop turned into a five day sightseeing spree when we were invited to stay with a local policeman, Andrey (more about that in our next blog post). He took us to see the local ‘zoo’, which (more…)
The Star Ferry at Victoria Harbour is an institution in Hong Kong, and has been connecting Hong Kong Island with Kowloon since the Morning Star took it’s first passengers in the 1880’s. There are 9 Star ferries in the fleet now, plus a harbour tour. Although there is a road tunnel and a metro rail (more…)
How we took on the infamous BAM railroad, swam in the world’s deepest lake and experienced true Siberian hospitality… over and over again.
Getting out of Mongolia wasn’t really an issue but our third entry into Russia had me on tenterhooks for the first time since leaving the UK. The border official had questioned the fact that the vehicle and trailer had the same number plate/registration. I tried to explain that this is standard for UK vehicles but she was suspicious, and rightfully so. Although I was telling the truth about UK laws, I was presenting less than honest evidence…
A few days after arriving in Mongolia we had driven down to the city of Khovd to try and catch the festival of Naadam. This storm started not long after we set up camp and finished cooking, and was pretty typical of western Mongolian evenings. Although the rain was heavy and the winds strong, these storms always disappeared not long after and it was as if nothing had happened! We camped by the side of a river with hundreds of others in anticipation of the next day’s activities.
Last year we realised we were clocking up a fair number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, as they are usually worth checking out and in some countries were the highlight of our visit. It’s surprising how quickly they add up too. So here is a round-up of the sites we have visited over the years. We will continue to add to this list, starting with Australia’s wonders. But in the meantime check out whc.unesco.org for the complete list and interactive world map to see how many you have been to! We would be interested to hear your thoughts and where you have been that impressed you most. Let us know in the Poll and in the comments. (more…)
Whilst not the best photo in our collection it is probably the most memorable. Our visit to Hetta Huskies (www.hettahuskies.com) just happened to land on 14th February 2013, so it was the perfect day out for us. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did either. If you get the chance to do this, do it! You wont regret it. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!